A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Fashion & Compassion, a non-profit boutique specializing in fashionable fair trade jewelry made by women overcoming poverty & injustice around the world. Located just off East Blvd in a gorgeous old Victorian home (complete with beautiful front porch and a porch swing!), the house itself is a showpiece. That is, until you walk inside and see the breathtaking art, handcrafted one of a kind leather bags and gorgeous jewelry. You can sense the reverence for the items and these precious women the moment you step in the door. I met with Karie, the Communications Director, who gave me an overview of Fashion & Compassion's Mission, the population they serve and the products these women (and a few men) create. The jewelry, bags and art (made by local artist, Caroline Simas, of Multiple Blessings) are separated into "collections" - a nod to the fashion part of the organization's name. Karie told me about the Freedom Collection, which is "made in Charlotte, North Carolina by women in in our own backyard who are trafficking survivors, domestic abuse victims, former addicts and women that were previously incarcerated. Fashion & Compassion offers these women short-term employment, while holistically investing in their overall well-being." She went on to explain their mission further by saying, "we believe that in order for life to really change, that that change has to be addressed form the inside out. That's why we partner with other organizations in Charlotte and around the world to help our artisans complete their educations, find full time employment, find safe housing, pay off debts...whatever it is, we're here to help them succeed." I moved from piece to beautiful piece while Karie explained each collection, then showed me to the jewelry workroom and the offices. I was moved to tears just thinking what it must take for these women to be brave enough to get out of their oppressive situations, to try to better themselves and how you can see this raw emotion in every piece of art. As I gingerly touched beaded necklaces I knew immediately this was an organization I wanted to promote and support. I asked about proceeds and Karie told me, "all net proceeds are donated back to our ministry partners to further support the needs of our artisans (approximately 25% of cost)." She went on to explain that "we pay our artisans by the piece so that way they can get the money upfront without having to wait for an item to sell."
I've highlighted some fun facts about the company below! You can visit the boutique Monday through Friday from 10-5 or anytime at www.fashionandcompassion.com and click on "Shop"! Also, if you are in the Charlotte area, be sure to stop by the boutique between 5-8pm on Wednesday the 22nd to enjoy music, drinks and from what we hear, a nacho bar from Vida Cantina! The event is co-hosted by Sodoma Law & Pat's Place, with all proceeds from the evening going to Fashion & Compassion and Pat's Place.
How was Fashion & Compassion started?
In 2008, co-founders Michele Dudley & Celeste Bundy went on a life-changing mission trip to Rwanda and Burundi. When they got back, they started selling paper bead jewelry out of Michele's dining room to help war-displaced women feed & educate their children. In 2012, Fashion & Compassion was born, when it's first project site launched in Charlotte, NC.
What is the mission of Fashion & Compassion?
Fashion & Compassion exists to connect caring consumer with oppressed artisans in the U.S. and abroad to bring dignity through economic empowerment.
Our mission is accomplished in three ways:
- By providing holistic employment opportunities
- Through educating our consumers about the issues & injustices women face around the world
- By raising funds through product sales for our collaborative partners to further address the spiritual, emotional & physical needs of the artisans in each project
Where are Fashion & Compassion's projects located?
We have 6 different projects around the world - Ecuador, Ethiopia, Mexico, Rwanda, Uganda and the U.S.
How many artisans are employed by Fashion & Compassion?
Between all of our projects, we have the privilege of employing over 200 women!
What makes Fashion& Compassion different from other organizations?
Fashion & Compassion is a non-profit and we donate all net proceeds back to our ministry partners to help our artisans do things like overcome addictions, earn an income, transition into full-time employment, further their education& feed their kids.
In the last three years, we've donated over $200,000 and that money has been used to purchase a safe-house for human trafficking survivors in Ecuador, care for & educate 12 abandoned children in Ethiopia, train upcoming leaders in Central Africa, start a school for the blind in Rwanda & start micro-business training in Uganda.
What do you sell?
We primarily sell jewelry, but we also sell handcrafted leather goods like bags & wallets.
How can I help?
Shop online, follow us on social media, volunteer and/or place a custom/wholesale order.